Friday, January 20, 2012

Neanderthal Man: Bitchfest Episode 2

After a long time, here I present to you the next version of Bitchfest. Been a long time coming, but then I am such a sweet and tolerant person that it really takes a lot to infuriate me ;-) (oh, the sarcasm and irony! Especially when I have documented here my long time struggle to conquer anger). Anyway, I digress. Lets go back to the point of this post, ranting ;-)

So I recently had the (mis)fortune to meet this guy. And he has been kind enough to express some of his views about women and their "duties" to their husbands. He often talks about how women need to cook for their husbands, no matter whether women work or not. After all, it is a woman's duty to cook for the poor guy, since he can not be expected to do so himself. When I tried to point out to him that maybe this thought process was not completely correct- men need to contribute too- he shot back at me, so don't you cook for your husband? Since of course, in his mind, that was the clinching argument.

A few days ago, I met him again as part of a large group, and he started talking about how men work so much more and have more tension in their lives, as compared to women/ wives! Oh well! Men who work less hours than their wives, come home sooner, and sit on the couch watching TV, waiting for their wives to come home and cook and clean. When we (me and some other infuriated women in the group) told him that actually working women work a lot more- since we work both at home and office- he said that of course we could give up working. Outside the home. Not that men could contribute more so that women's lives could be a bit easier, but women who had problems handling both should just give up work. He then added after all, that it is the wife's duty to take care of the husband. Since men work outside the home (and of course, women need not).

Now, this guy is planning to get married soon, and his parents are looking for a girl for him. So he was talking about that, and said that he was ambivalent about marriage, because, once married, he could no longer party/ hang out with friends (yes, that was his reason!). So I suggested that he could party with his wife, and/or take her to the party with friends. His answer- of course I can not, because she would not drink. So I asked her how did he know she would not drink, since he has yet to meet anybody. Well, he answered, because obviously the girl my parents find will not drink. Okay, fair enough, so I suggested that he could initiate her into drinking socially. To which he responded that it was better if she did not drink!!

After that, I just gave up talking to him.
All this, coming from a decently educated guy working in the US. It is saddening, disappointing, but most of all, infuriating. Is this a problem peculiar to Indian men? Who grew up so mollycoddled and worshipped by their families that they don't think helping their wives in housework is important? More so in the US where there is nothing like household help? Who think that it is a wife's duty, DUTY, DUTY (I feel like screaming that word) to take care of the husband? Whatever happened to taking care of each other? Wasn't that what marriage was supposed to be? Where does this sense of utter entitlement come from?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Fat but not Powerless!

A few days ago, I saw this Indian movie called “Desi Boyz”. And I have been seething ever since at one particular dialogue in the movie. Of course, I probably should not expect even a modicum of sense from such an inane movie, yet I am completely and totally incensed by this one thing. In the movie, the good for nothing dumb and useless male protagonist goes back to school (since he could not be bothered to finish first time around) and one of his classmates of earlier days is now his Economics professor. She obviously harbors a huge crush on our macho man, and sets out to get him. He fails to recognize her in the beginning, because she was ugly and fat, with braces etc. when they had last met. This time around though, she has metamorphosed into a super-duper hot attractive smart babe to end all hot babes. And she says to him, (I quote here) “last time we met, mai moti aur bechari thhi. Par ab this is not so” (or some such claptrap to that effect).

Right. “Moti aur bechari” (fat and powerless). That is how fat people are perceived. That is how fat people perceive themselves. Because being fat renders you helpless, powerless, useless!! Can you even think of something more self-esteem annihilating? What self-worth do we talk about when we buy into this idea that being fat makes us powerless? What about being smart and intelligent- the woman in question was smart enough to be an Economics professor at Oxford, for heaven’s sake!- and all she could say was that she was fat and powerless. She still had the same brains, if inside a fat body.

Yes, I know that this is the ugly truth. That being fat is perceived as ugly, powerless, as something/ somebody to be looked down upon. Fat people buy into this idea as much as everybody else. This is something that is ingrained in our culture. Beautiful is thin, and vice versa. Beauty may be only skin deep but we live in a shallow world.

As a fat person who has had self-worth issues all her life, I know the pain. I know how difficult it is to maintain a modicum of dignity. To find some shreds of self-esteem in the annihilated remains of self. I have been there and am still struggling. To believe that my complete sense of self does not come from how much I weigh. That I am a smart, intelligent and good person who deserves a good life.

It is not easy to accept myself. To forgive myself. To love myself. People who have never had to struggle with being fat don’t know the pain. It is not merely the physical aspect, but an entire societal and cultural construction. And fighting, not for acceptance, but for the right to live a life that brings us dignity and self-respect is something that we all deserve. Being fat does not render us automatically powerless. We have to fight this mindset in our culture, but first and foremost, battle our own inner devils of doubt and anger and pain. I am my own greatest enemy, my own lack of self-worth allows me to feel powerless.

Which is why I am angry at this movie. Because they brainlessly translate being fat with being powerless. The two are not the same. In fact, it is against all human dignity and self-respect to even think so. As Eleanor Roosevelt had once said, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”. And yes, we consent. We agree that we really do not deserve better. We agree to be powerless.

Today, this is what I want to start my New Year thinking. That I may be fat, but I am not powerless. Or helpless. Or useless. I am good, and powerful, and yes, even beautiful. Mai bechari nahi hoon!